Last week in the midst of my writing madness I attended a fancy dinner to be recognized for a grant I received from the university (I think I might have called this Grant A). I already spent the money for travel to Ukenzagapia and had no idea I'd be honored at a dinner until a few weeks ago.
I got an email saying they wanted to honor me and the other award recipients at the dinner, could I come, etc. As I got more and more emails about the award dinner it started to seem like a bigger and bigger deal. First they wanted to know if I would be bringing a guest (I stupidly said no). Next they told me I'd be meeting the donor who endowed the award. Then they wanted my CV for my "introduction" (What? Why are they introducing me?). Finally they called me the Friday before the dinner saying they urgently needed my "remarks" for the script (WHAT? What do I have to say?). Remarks! Oh my. Apparently this is the kind of award ceremony where they talk about you and then you say thank you and how much the award has helped you. I've never been honored at one of those before!
On the night of the dinner I arrive at the building on campus and meet the coordinator with whom I have been corresponding over email. As I'm picking up my nametag he asks, "Do you have a copy of your remarks?" Uhhh... you mean you aren't going to put them on a teleprompter or something? There's not a copy of that script you so urgently needed them for? Apparently, you are always supposed to bring a copy of your remarks (ok, I'm not really sure why I thought I didn't... I think perhaps I just failed to consider and comprehend what it meant to give these remarks. Now you've been warned. Bring your remarks). So, I ran back to my office to print my remarks, then returned, sweaty, to the pre-dinner mingling.
They aren't kidding around about this award dinner. It's possible that the whole thing was more expensive than our wedding will be. First there was an open bar. I had no one to mingle with since I declined to bring a guest so I found another student who wasn't mingling with the gray-headed male-dominated crowd and chatted with her until dinner.
During dinner I was seated with the bigshots. There was an alumni association chairperson, a dean, and a chancellor. I don't even know what a chancellor does. Where are they in the administrative hierarchy? Is there more than one? The man who established the award I received sat down right next to me, so I got to tell him how much the money helped me further my research as a grad student in biology.
There were many speeches, much clapping, lots of university cheerleading, and some awards. Considering how long we sat there they really didn't give out very many awards. Students were in the minority by far. I think it was mostly wealthy alumni, other major donors, administrators, and professors.
I got so nervous when they called me up and read my introduction. I didn't know what they were going to say (I wish I'd asked), so a few things caught me off guard. I think my little speech was ok, but I wish I'd practiced it more so that I would've been more calm, cool, and collected. Then they gave me a thing with my name and such engraved on it and took my photo with the bigshots. I had no idea they were going to give me a thing- really the money was enough!
After the awards we had to hang around for more photos and they had a dessert bar with a chocolate fountain. When I left I got to take home a huge flower arrangement, except that it only made it to my office because there was no way I could get it home on my bike. I'm telling you, they went all out on this thing. Their money is probably better spent funding more student awards.
Overall it was an interesting glimpse into part of a big university. I'm glad I went, even though I had to go back to my office afterwards and write for a few more hours. I'll be sure to tip off the next award recipient to bring their own remarks, dress very nicely, and bring a guest.